the most extraordinary french lemon cream tart

i really wanted to call this “the most extraordinary pain in the ass”, but i didn’t want to discourage you, readers.

see, it’s not you, it’s me.  i’m in a bad place with lemon desserts right now:  several failed lemon swiss meringue buttercreams & then this tart.

it was absolutely delicious, 

but i NEVER EVER thought it would come together.

the crust was a breeze, made just by tossing all the ingredients in the food processor & pulsing a couple times.  granted, i pressed it too firmly in the pan, but now i know better.

i thought the lemon cream would be a cinch too, since it’s pretty much lemon curd that’s blended with butter, but DAMN.  i set up the makeshift double boiler (pot of simmering water & pyrex bowl), grabbed the candy thermometer & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked & whisked.  i whisked fast, i whisked slow, i tried every thermometer we own & the lemon cream that was supposed to be 180° would not budge a degree over 165.

i collapsed into a sweaty {yes.  from whisking.}, frustrated mess on the floor & cussed at it & cried about it a little grabbed the computer to google.  the author of the recipe, dorie greenspan, has about 101 fan baking groups, so someone had to have this problem, too.  right?  i finally found someone who did, on like the 15th blog post i read.  the problem?  the pyrex.  apparently a metal bowl is only way that cream would come up to temperature.  well, no dice.  no metal bowls.  so i declared the lemon cream temperature safe, pulled it off the heat & finished the rest of the tart.

the next morning we packed up & headed to easter dinner in charlotte.  first stop on the way?  ikea.  now we have several metal bowls to choose from.


serves 8

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled & cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1 cup sugar
3 lemons, zested
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks, plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature & cut into tablespoon sized pieces

to make the tart dough, butter the bottom & sides of a tart pan with removable bottom.  add the flour, confectioner’s sugar & salt to the bowl of a food processor. pulse a few times to combine. scatter the pieces of butter around the bowl & pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. the pieces won’t all be the same size.

stir the egg yolk with a fork, just to break it up a little. add it to the bowl, a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. when the whole egg yolk is finally in there, process the dough in long pulses, about 10 seconds each, until the dough forms clumps.

turn out onto a work surface & very lightly, very lightly, knead, just to incorporate any dry ingredients that escaped the processing.

press the dough evenly along the bottom & sides of the prepared tart pan, but don’t pack it in too hard.  freeze for at least 30 minutes.  while the shell is in the freezer, preheat the oven to 375°.

butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil & fit it tightly against the crust.  bake for 25 minutes.  carefully remove the foil.  if the crust has puffed up at all, press it back down with the back of a spoon & bake for another 3-5 minutes.  transfer to a cooling rack.

to make the lemon cream filling, add the sugar & the zest in a large, heatproof, METAL bowl that fits well over a pot of simmering water.  get the water going.  before setting the bowl over the heat, rub the sugar & the zest between your fingers until fragrant.  whisk in the eggs, then the lemon juice.

set the bowl over simmering water & begin whisking as soon as the mixture feels just a little bit warm.  it will start out foamy, then thicken & the whisk will leave marks as it gets closer to temperature.  continue cooking the mixture, whisking continuously, until it reaches 180°.  you can count this as an arm workout.

once it’s up to temperature, strain through a fine mesh sieve into the jar of a blender.  discard the solids in the strainer.  let the strained cream stand, stirring occasionally, until the temperature comes down to 140°, about 10 minutes.

turn the blender on high.  with the motor running, add the butter, 5 pieces at a time, scraping down the sides of the blender jar, if necessary.  continue until all the butter is incorporated , then keep the blender running for about 3 more minutes, until the lemon cream is light & airy.  transfer to another bowl & press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the surface to keep a “skin” from forming.  chill for at least 4 hours, overnight is ideal.

to assemble the tart, whisk the lemon cream to loosen it, then spoon into the room temperature tart shell.  use a spatula to smooth it evenly.  refrigerate any leftovers.

from cooking after five & dorie greenspan’s website

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